Sensory Evaluation - The Key to Your Product's Success
06.16.2017 | Author: Global Organics | Category: Quality & Certifications
Consumers expect their favorite product to look and taste exactly the same every time they buy it. But when you’re working with agricultural food ingredients, natural variations can occur due to plant variety, soil nutrients, weather patterns, country of origin and more. How do you make sure the ingredients you buy remain consistent year after year?
Well, we’ve taken care of that for you.
At Global Organics, our quality protocol includes a professionally trained in-house sensory panel to ensure that you receive consistent, high quality products every time you place an order. The panel is made up of members from different departments of the company and meets two or three times a week to evaluate ingredients from each of our product categories. Unlike a consumer panel, this is not about “liking” a product or thinking it tastes “good.” Sensory analysis is an objective evaluation of a product’s appearance, smell, texture and taste using a common set of descriptors along an agreed-upon scale.
Each year panelists participate in five training sessions to ensure they can correctly identify specific texture components, delicate aromas, complex flavors, and off-notes (if they exist). For example, organic mango puree isn’t simply sweet or sour. It could be floral or have notes of pine, green apple, or cooked fruit. A sample of our organic dark chocolate can have hints of red fruit, smoky tobacco and baked brownie whereas our organic white chocolate often has egg custard, brown spice and vanilla flavor notes.
Some goals for our sensory evaluations are:
- Degree of difference testing to determine the amount of variation between an established standard for a product and a new lot of that same item
- Descriptive analysis of new products to create flavor profiles, or reference standards, against which future lots of that product can be compared
- Shelf life and storage assessments
- To provide comments for customers as needed
Our panel training sessions are conducted by an internationally recognized independent consultant with decades of experience working with leading retail chains, confectioners and bakeries. She explains, “When you buy a brand name product there are things that consumers expect in terms of quality, consistency and satisfaction. To make that happen good manufacturers make an investment in a sensory program. They need a set of trained employees to evaluate the product on an ongoing basis. It requires a fair investment of time.”
Our sensory trainer began working with Global Organics over 15 years ago when we reached out to her for advice on evaluating chocolate products. She says, “Global is a small, privately owned company but they realize the importance of consistency and quality. It’s something they value and has been that way for as long as I have known them.”
“Some companies start a program, then let it fade and call me when they have a problem,” she explained. “Global had the foresight to start the sensory program early on and has kept up a finely-tuned panel ever since. This is a huge benefit for Global’s customers, because what are we selling mostly? Taste!”
Our in-house sensory panel is an extension of our commitment to providing top quality organic and non-GMO ingredients and it has wide impacts across the company. After each session evaluation results are shared with and reviewed by management. Results are used to make informed decisions about new vendors or products, releasing products for shipping to our warehouses or customers, validating shelf life and more.
Sensory analysis also helps to minimize risk to you. It’s an extra step of protection to catch quality issues or off-notes before you even buy the product.
Our panel can also provide valuable insight when working with you on special projects. For example, if you’re reformulating an existing product, our panel can provide tasting notes to help you select the perfect alternative from our product catalogue.
If you’re creating a new product, we can develop custom ingredients to suit your needs. Sensory evaluation throughout the product development process facilitates communication between you and our supply partners to increase productivity and speed up the process. When everyone is speaking the same language in terms of flavor profiles and textures, we can help you find your desired ingredient profile more efficiently.
So when it comes to buying ingredients, make sure your quality standards include sensory evaluation. The taste your customers are looking for depends on it.